Sound — 10
Often coveted as X Japan's greatest work, and without a doubt one of metal's longest and most epic songs, Art Of Life is very different from anything that the average listener has ever heard. It is a different experience for everyone; with it's huge genre collection, and the intimidating length of precisely 29:00 (which is a lot, considering that it the album consists of a single song known as Art Of Life). But, I will warn you now, you will not really "feel" the long until you have heard it a couple of times. But trust me, it is well worth it. Basically, this song consists of every single style that X Japan ever did. This includes the ballad-like beginning, to the speed metal follow up, to the insane progressive sounds throughout. When listening to the song, I suggest that you think of it as many songs in one. A concept album if you will. Another thing I suggest is to listen to the "live version" of the song, because it captures the band in all of it's moments, and the sound is unassisted, pure X Japan. Plus, the piano solo is far better in it. Now, I will go through each section of the song separately, to give you an idea of what to expect. The introduction opens up. You are completely immersed in the clean guitar arpeggios (in the live version it is a piano instead). Then, after a few moments of the guitar, mixed with the string effects, the trademark voice of Toshi enters with that awesome first line, "Desert Rose/Why do you live alone?" This section plays very much like a ballad. After Toshi finishes with "If it's all real, just kill me" about three minutes into the song, you are almost immediately thrown into the chaos of the next section. This part of the song starts off kind of like a power metal epic, but you are then taken to the speed metal/opera metal part. This section features awesome choreography from both guitarists, Hide and Pata, who don't really get much of a break in this part of the song, as this section has a lot of embedded solos in it. The drumming is a steady outburst of insanity on Yoshiki's part. Heath, the new bassist introduced on this album, shows that he is no chump when it comes to playing crazy lines. Toshi's voice continues to resound in all of it's swift grace. At around 8:15, we go on to the next section. The strings cut out all other instruments, leading up to the great chorus, which is a lot slower than it's predecessor section. It isn't a ballad, more of a progressive rock type section, which is great to listen to. It has a nice beat to it. At 9:37 comes one of my all time favorite guitar solos of all time. As soon as you are hit by those first few notes, you know you are in for something big. Masterfully coordinated by both guitars, it is quite a tour de force for the band. You really don't know what to expect when you listen to it the first time. There are also fragments of classical music littered throughout it. The seemingly never ending solo lasts from 9:37 to about 12:41 (that's like three minutes of guitar work). Now, we hit a nice soft section played by the strings. It seems like the song could end if we didn't know any better, but then, we are built back up to the chorus once again. This reigns supreme until 15:05. Now we hit the part of the song, that many people do not understand. The eight minute piano solo. This starts out as a beautifully crafted piece, as the riff sprays from Yoshiki's fingertips. This riff is played flawlessly, over and over again. But then, you think it may be a recording glitch at first, but you start to hear a few missed notes, and others that are played incorrectly. You don't really think much of it, but then you realize that this few innocently missed notes become more and more frequent, until soon, the piano is outright banged practically to it's destruction. Pretty soon, you'll want to take off your headphones, but if you are a first time listener, and have made it this far into the song already, I suggest againt this action. You might as well finish the song. After relentless amounts of banging on the keys, the riff returns slowly back to normal. A lot of people who don't understand this section simply tell it off as the "part that ruins the song." But after you listen to the song a few times, you realize that you need the piano solo in there. But, I would again recommend the live version of the song. The solo is a lot better, and the banging is less protruding for the haters. As the solo comes to a close, the strings start to take over. At 23:25, the piano has almost completely dissipated. Now, we feel like the song may finally be over, that we can finally put this epic to a close. But at 24:16, the speed metal returns for one last hurrah. We have returned to the way things used to be, earlier on in the song. And if you are a first time listener, it may feel like that was some time ago. And now, we have to get through this part one more time. The best part about this song, is it leaves you a lot of time to think, and when you hit the speed metal part earlier in the song, you may have had a negative connotation of life or some event. Well, now it will feel like you must face this one more time. We go through all of the opera and progressive sounds again, until we hit chorus for one last time. 27:30. You can really feel it now. You can feel as everything is forced upon you in this final chorus. And now, you may, after a couple of listens, finally understand this song. It may come to you, it may not. 28:47 - "Life." The song is now over, and fades out of existence.
Lyrics — 10
The greatest part about these lyrics is that they are all in english. And by the time this song was recorded, Toshi's english has become a lot more understandable. Though the songs switches up genres all of the time, his vocal style pretty well stays the same throughout; high pitched, melodic vocals, which could compete with any choir. The lyrics have been analyzed and analyzed. And I am going to tell you not to look into the meaning of them. This is mostly because you may have no idea what they are about, and also because I don't believe you NEED to know the meaning. Basically, if you decide to listen to this song, you will probably come up with connotations and meanings related to yourself throughout the 29:00 minutes of the song. You will probably think of your own life, and you will have memories of yourself that will follow the highs and lows of the song. The lyrics are great to listen to, and to (try to) sing to. But in the end, the song is whatever you make of it in terms of meaning. Also, the lyrics are incredible when put to the song. This song took (I believe) 4 years to write, and Yoshiki gave no quarter when it came to the lyrics. You really can't just read the lyrics. You quite honestly have to listen to them, even if it means giving up 29:00 minutes of radio time (believe me, it seems to go by pretty fast). Plus, for those out there who despise the lyrics, please consider they were written by someone who speaks english as a second language. But I have never seen a lacking in the lyrics anyways.
Overall Impression — 10
As said before, I can't really compare this to anything you've ever listened to, except maybe to everything else that X Japan has ever written. It's definitely not run of the mill. I consider this song to be absolutely flawless. It's perfect. I would call it a perfect song, if there is such a thing. I would give it an eleven if I could. But, I'll tell you right now, if you are a shallow minded individual, you will not like this song. But I know that this review will be helpful to someone out there, who's been awaiting that one song. That one song that he/she can completely relate to and understand. If you feel like taking on a challenge musically, try to simply listen to all of Art Of Life. If anything, you will feel the accomplishment of listening to an almost half hour song. But this song is not a chore. It is Art Of Life.